fiber zinc deficiency

High Fiber Intake May Cause Zinc Deficiency

Beware: Fibrous Foods May Deplete Zinc

Both fiber and zinc are essential for health, but studies show that people who have high fiber intake have a much greater risk of zinc deficiency. This is because many dietary sources of fiber contain phytic acid, which significantly decreases the bioavailability of zinc.

The solution is to twofold:

  1. Supplement with zinc that is easy for the body to absorb
  2. Modify fiber intake so that you get it from sources that do not overload the body with phytic acid (aka phytates).
Who Is At Risk of Zinc Deficiency?

Worldwide 2 billion people are at risk of zinc deficiency. In the U.S. and other western nations, zinc deficiency affects 12 to 20 percent of the population with certain groups at higher risk of low zinc. Older adults, individuals with chronic disease, and those with GI disorders have increased risk of zinc deficiency.

Vegetarians are at greatest risk of zinc deficiency due to their high intake of fiber from beans, seeds, and grains. Meanwhile, athletes eating high-carb diets are also a problem. One study estimated that 90 percent of athletes may have suboptimal zinc due to a high-carb and low-fat diet.

Why Is Zinc Important?

Zinc is a powerful immune nutrient that affects almost every aspect of human function. It is essential for hormone production (specifically testosterone and insulin sensitivity). Zinc also has antioxidant action and plays a role in cancer prevention. It affects energy production and neurotransmitter balance, impacting mood, motivation, and ability to focus.

A zinc deficiency is disastrous. Yet, many people are walking around with a zinc deficiency and never know. The most effective way to test for zinc status is to get a red blood cell zinc test because body stores of zinc can be rapidly altered. Plus, zinc in the plasma is not a reliable measure of overall status. Athletes train most efficiently with red blood cell zinc levels of above 1,400 mcg/dl.

What Foods Contain Phytic Acid?

Raw and unprocessed plant foods are high in phytic acid that impairs absorption of zinc. Calcium, manganese, and iron are also impacted by phytic acid. Beans, grains, nuts, and seeds all contain phytic acid. When phytic acid is consumed, it binds to other minerals to create phytates. Because you don't have any enzymes that can break phytates down, their nutrients cannot be absorbed into your body.

The average American probably doesn't have to worry all that much. Few Americans come close to getting enough fiber and the little fiber they do eat doesn't come from the phytic acid-rich foods that are a problem. But if you eat a high fiber diet designed to include plenty of nuts, seeds, beans, or grains, you could be at risk of zinc deficiency, especially if you shun animal foods.

Steps To Solve Zinc Deficiency

First, avoid consuming phytate-rich foods during meals when you eat foods high in zinc. You don’t have to completely eliminate foods that contain phytic acid. Just don’t eat them with zinc-rich foods or when supplementing with zinc.

Second, eat plenty of protein that is high zinc. These foods enhance absorption because they provide fat, which improves assimilation. The top zinc foods are oysters, beef, lamb, chocolate, pork, and chicken.

Third, soaking, sprouting, and fermenting grains, seeds, and zinc can help destroy phytates before you even eat them. These processes may also increase the bioavailability of zinc from plant sources.

Fourth, when supplementing to overcome a deficiency, you can take a zinc chelate, such as UberZinc that provides two forms of easily absorbable zinc. For longer term supplementation, take zinc with copper in a produce like Zinc Essentials. Taking zinc by itself can deplete copper, leading to imbalances between dopamine and epinephrine.


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